GREENFIELD — Monica Kowaleski has seen it happen enough to know what comes next.
A family realizes their child has a heart defect that can’t be treated in their country. They connect with Gift of Life International and make arrangements to come to the United States for surgery that will improve — and in many cases, save — their child’s life.
Local Rotary club members meet them at the airport, and by the time they’re clearing the terminal, they’re in tears.
“They don’t know us, but they know we’re there to give life for their child,” she said.
The Greenfield Rotary Club is preparing for one of its signature annual events, a fundraiser that helps an international organization operate on children with heart defects.
In the past 18 years, the Rotary Club of Greenfield has raised some $500,000 for Gift of Life International, an organization that provides children born with congenital heart defects with life-saving surgeries. Each year its annual Gift of Life auction raises approximately $50,000, officials said.
The 19th annual Gift of Life Auction is slated for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Washington Park Community Life Center, 10612 E. Washington St., Indianapolis. It will feature a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, dinner and raffles. Tickets are $50 or $500 for a table of 10. Prices rise to $60 or $600 for a table on Feb. 1.
The local Rotary Club continues to seek donations of items, vacations, experiences and more for its silent and live auctions, said Sara Joyner, who is a co-chair of the event with Kowaleski.
They’re also seeking sponsorship and monetary donations, she said.
Gift of Life, whose doctors have operated on 30,000 children in the program’s 42-year history, has a two-pronged approach to treating children born with heart defects, according to its website. It sends teams of doctors and nurses to countries where defects cannot be treated, but it also brings children needing complicated procedures to the United States.
Dr. Stephanie Kinnaman leads Indiana’s Gift of Life program, which since 1998 has sent teams of doctors to developing countries and brought children to the United States for heart surgeries not available at hospitals there. Gift of Life International has sent teams to 79 countries throughout the world, according to its website. The organization’s 80 independent teams treat some 2,000 children every year.
Up to five children a year can travel to Riley Hospital for Children through Indiana’s Gift of Life, Kinnaman told the Daily Reporter in September.
Gift of Life International has brought some 67 children to Riley Hospital for Children for heart surgeries over the years; altogether, its Indiana team members have treated about 310 children across the globe, including in Amman, Jordan, and Uganda.
The team not only performs surgeries on children with heart defects; it also teaches healthcare professionals in developing countries how to treat the same defects themselves, Joyner said.
“(Gift of Life) takes the money we raise and really makes huge impacts,” Joyner said.
19th Annual Gift of Life Auction
5:30 p.m. Feb. 17
Washington Park Community Life Center, 10612 E. Washington St., Indianapolis
Tickets are $50 or $500 for a table of 10*
Register at wedoauctions.net/giftoflife/tickets?type=14679
*Ticket prices rise to $60 or $600 for a table of 10 Feb. 1.
The Greenfield Rotary Club seeks donations for its live and silent auctions during the 19th annual Gift of Life Auction Feb. 17.
Cash contributions can be made payable to “Rotary District 6560 Foundation” with a memo entry “Gift of Life.” Send to:
Greenfield Rotary Treasurer
P.O. Box 1, Greenfield, IN 46140